Formula 1 has been one of the most exciting seasons in recent years. Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen and Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton are on a collision course for victory which has led to a thrilling spectacle. It also leaves Formula One with some important questions moving into 2019. Will 2018 be remembered as The Year Of The Two Champions?
Formula 1 has been in the news recently, with Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton’s title battle coming to an end. The sport is now looking for a new direction after this dramatic year. Read more in detail here: f1 news.
David Coulthard talks to Breakfast on the F1 season finale and why there has to be more clarity moving ahead.
The FIA, the governing body of Formula One, is under fire after the contentious finish of the 2021 world championship in Abu Dhabi on Sunday.
The management of the sport’s regulations during the safety-car period, which finally determined the drivers’ championship in Max Verstappen’s favor, has brought to the surface a deeper unhappiness that had been simmering under the sport’s surface.
After a season in which many have criticized the FIA’s decision-making consistently, the events at the conclusion of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix shocked F1 teams and drivers.
Many people believed the regulations were not followed properly at Yas Marina, and now a lot of F1 experts feel the FIA has to make adjustments.
Because the topic is divisive, leading people have declined to go on the record in the early aftermath of the race.
However, a number of sources have informed Sport that at least half of the Formula One teams have lost faith in race director Michael Masi, and that many of the drivers are also concerned.
Why was Abu Dhabi such a thorny issue?
Masi is at the center of the debate because, as race director, he was the guy who made the choices at the conclusion of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, and he has been engaged in other heated situations in the previous year or so.
The main question is whether Masi followed the FIA’s regulations appropriately while using the safety car and resumed the race for one more shootout lap.
The emphasis of concern is on two areas:
- His decision to allow just some of the lapped vehicles to overtake, such as the five between Hamilton and Verstappen, but not others, such as the two between Verstappen and third-placed Carlos Sainz’s Ferrari, was a controversial one.
- The day on which the safety-car term will finish.
Both issues, as well as the stewards’ decision to reject Mercedes’ complaint against Masi’s choices, are addressed in depth in this article.
The overarching worry is that contentious choices, many of which seem to be in violation of the FIA’s own regulations, had a direct impact on the championship’s conclusion.
Aside from Mercedes’ appeal procedure, it’s crucial to note that none of these broader concerns in F1 can be seen as being about who should or should not be world champion. They are motivated by a desire for fair and equal competition.
The championship race came down to the penultimate lap of the season’s final event.
Is there anything wrong with the stewards’ decision?
Masi’s operational calls in Abu Dhabi, and the stewards’ determination to defend them, raise further problems in the context of a year in which consistency of rule implementation has been a heated subject.
During the Eifel Grand Prix at the Nurburgring in 2020, there was a safety-car period. It was needlessly lengthy, according to both Hamilton and Verstappen.
After the race, Masi was questioned about it. “The sports laws necessitate that all lapped vehicles be waved pass,” he said.
So, during the previous year, he seems to have altered his thinking about the interpretation of the relevant regulation, since he took one approach to lapped vehicles in Germany and another in Abu Dhabi.
For the previous two seasons, Michael Masi has served as the Formula One race director.
What additional issues have arisen as a result of this?
The whole season has been marred by doubts about the regularity with which penalties are applied and decisions are made, most of it centered on Verstappen.
Verstappen was not penalized for driving Hamilton off the track at the Brazilian Grand Prix in November when the Briton attempted to overtake him for the lead.
Many drivers were outraged by this judgment, believing that his actions should have resulted in a punishment.
Ros Atkins on the F1 championship race between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen
Lando Norris of McLaren, as well as Sainz and his Ferrari teammate Charles Leclerc, were among them, having been penalized in a similar circumstance earlier this year in a clash with Red Bull’s Sergio Perez in Austria.
All of the drivers addressed this with Masi and the officials at the next race in Qatar, hoping to come up with a definition for what was permissible in wheel-to-wheel racing. Following the meeting, a number of people said that the situation was still unclear. They’d been advised that pushing a driver off the track was not permitted, but that it was up to the stewards’ panels at each race to decide.
Verstappen performed a virtually similar maneuver on Hamilton the next race in Saudi Arabia, earning him a five-second penalty. It’s no surprise, however, that he went into the season’s last race grumbling about inconsistency and claimed he was treated differently than other drivers, adding: “The only thing I want is that it be equitable for everybody. That isn’t the case at all.”
Regardless of whether Verstappen was correct in the particular situations to which he was referring, his fundamental thesis matched the worries of many drivers.
Masi’s future and more serious concerns
Insiders believe the FIA’s dilemma is that the spotlight on Abu Dhabi was so strong during the tense championship race between Hamilton and Verstappen that the sport’s image as a properly and successfully managed sport is on the line.
And this might have consequences not just for the FIA’s reputation, but also for Liberty Media’s business line. While some investors may be intrigued by F1’s massive worldwide effect in the last week, others will ask if a sport conducted in this manner is a wise place to put their money, according to one individual engaged in the financial side of F1.
One need only look at the social media outrage over this issue to understand that one of the points being raised is if the judgments were made purposely to offer entertainment.
Toto Wolff, the Mercedes team chief, and Christian Horner, the Red Bull team manager.
The fact that Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said that F1 management have considered attempting to avoid races ending under safety-car circumstances because it’s an anti-climax added to the perception.
In that sense, whether right or wrong, there seems to be a blurring of boundaries between the sport’s legislative arm, the FIA, and the commercial arm, F1 – two entities that are intended to be independent of each other under a more than 20-year-old agreement with the European Commission.
This was a topic made during the controversy surrounding the Belgian Grand Prix this year, which saw the race run for just two laps behind the safety car after hours of delays due to terrible weather before being called off and half-points given.
If Masi’s first problematic choice had been in Abu Dhabi, it would have been unpleasant, but unlikely to have raised so many doubts about his leadership.
However, given the perspective of so many others over the previous two years, some privately fear Masi will struggle to survive the Abu Dhabi repercussions.
Is Masi alone to blame?
Some people will not grieve him if he dies. Others, on the other hand, express remorse for the situation, claiming that Masi is doing his best in a tough job under incredibly demanding conditions, and that the absence of structure surrounding him is hindering him.
Some claim he is alone in race control and that he lacks enough backup.
Others allege he’s too easy to reach on the radio by team principals, which led to some of the talks between him and Mercedes F1 chief Toto Wolff and Horner in Abu Dhabi as the leaders of the two title-contending teams attempted to enhance their positions.
The airing of these talks, which is a relatively new event, has prompted further doubts about whether Masi’s judgments are unfairly influenced by teams.
Teams also point to other areas where they think the FIA’s handling of sensitive matters should have been improved.
For example, during the first part of the season, there was a dispute over flexible rear wings, which was a technical problem and therefore the responsibility of the FIA’s director of single-seater issues Nikolas Tombazis, not Masi.
To cut drag, Red Bull and many other teams developed designs that leaned rearward beyond a certain speed on the straights, dubbed “limbo wings.”
Although a restriction prohibiting movable aerodynamic equipment plainly prohibits this, the wings in issue passed all applicable load testing.
The FIA eventually imposed new, stiffer testing, but let the teams a couple of races to make changes to their designs. This was much to the chagrin of those teams, especially Mercedes, who had raised the issue. They believed that not only should action have been done sooner, but that there was no necessity for such a long wait in resolving the problem.
What is the FIA’s response to all of this?
It seems that the FIA had previously recognized the need to rectify several concerns.
This week, Sport can confirm that Peter Bayer, the organization’s secretary general for motorsport, will be named to the newly created role of executive director of Formula One. He will be in charge of Masi, Tombazis, and technical director Jo Bauer, as well as other employees.
In some respects, this is a re-enactment of the late Charlie Whiting, the FIA’s widely acclaimed former director of Formula One, who died on the eve of the 2019 season – and about whom Horner stated the sport was lacking in Saudi Arabia.
Whiting’s duties included serving as race director, and as a consequence, many people believe Masi is his successor. He isn’t. Masi was only hired to fulfill a portion of Whiting’s responsibilities. The remainder of Whiting’s duties, which included maintaining the FIA’s F1 operation on a level keel, has not been replaced until today.
The FIA would to say if it was undertaking an internal investigation into the Abu Dhabi incident, or whether its F1 operation or the regulations themselves were fit for purpose this year.
However, a representative said that it does not exist to please the Formula One teams, and that every move it takes in the sport is certain to irritate someone.
He said, “Our responsibility is to follow the regulations and to be neutral, fair, and transparent.”
The Formula One teams would agree on that. But it isn’t always a reflection of the FIA’s success.
An election is imminent.
All of this sets the stage for the FIA president to be elected on Friday, after the organization’s annual prize-giving event on Thursday.
Graham Stoker, an Englishman, and Mohammed bin Sulayem, an Emirati, are the two candidates. They’ve spent the last two months attempting to rally support among the world’s member clubs, and the election is thought to be too close to call.
The FIA is responsible for much more than racing, as current president Jean Todt and his predecessor Max Mosley demonstrated by devoting significant effort and success to improving road safety throughout the globe.
The FIA’s poster child, though, is Formula One. So, whomever wins the election, these concerns will be at the top of their priority list.
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